Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, which includes another round of direct payments to individuals, aid for state and local governments, increased unemployment benefits, as well as more funding for testing and vaccine distribution.
Calling the recently approved $900 billion bipartisan relief package ‘an important first step’, Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday night that “we need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move fast”.
“Just as we are in the midst of a dark winter of this pandemic as cases, hospitalisations, and deaths spike at record levels, there is real pain overwhelming the real economy”, the president-elect said in the speech to the nation.
Biden’s proposal includes direct payments of $1,400 per person for working families, which is on top of the $600 checks approved in the $900 billion relief package, bringing the total relief to $2,000.
It would boost federal unemployment benefits to $400 per week, up from the $300 per week approved in the $900 billion package, and extend the measure through the end of September 2020.
The proposal also includes $350 billion in state and local government aid, a measure that has been sought by Democrats for months but has been rejected by Republicans in previous rounds of relief negotiations.
“I know what I just described does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly”, Biden said.
“But the consensus among leading economists is we simply cannot afford not to do it.” The nearly $2 trillion price tag will likely draw backlash from some Republican Senators, who have aimed to hold down the overall cost of further Covid-19 economic relief, especially after December’s $900 billion bill.